The Irish Dental Association says it is disappointed by the lack of specifics in Budget 2023 regarding measures to improve access to dental care.
In what has been described by many as a ‘giveaway budget’, dentists say the sector has been given what amounts to pocket change in terms of adequate funding with nothing meaningful announced again to address the fundamental issues that have the medical card scheme at the brink of total collapse.
With less than 650 dentists now left in the DTSS (medical card) scheme, it has hit a ten-year low. In a cost-of-living crisis, the Irish Dental Assocation says Budget 2023 was the perfect opportunity for the Government to ensure that the most vulnerable patients in society can access care, however, the funding announced shows oral health continuing to be deprioritised by Government.
Recent HSE data shows that payments to dentists totalled €39.6m in 2021 compared with a total spend of €63.7m in 2012. Given that state spending on dental care was slashed by €100m per annum annually in 2009, a once-off allocation of €9 million as announced in today’s Budget will do little to clear oral health backlogs and, ultimately, fails to address or acknowledge the root of the problem. Most frustratingly, numerous promises about the commencement of talks on a new scheme have been made by the Minister for Health but, so far, all deadlines have been missed and no discussions have taken place. No account was taken of proposals we made to alleviate the rising cost of dental treatments reflecting the increase in the costs of providing such care by dentists who receive no state support.
Without consultation and meaningful reform, any changes aimed at improving the viability and sustainability of the medical card scheme, such as the measures introduced in May 1 to expand treatments, are doomed to fail. Modernisation, not Modification of the scheme is what is needed.
CEO of the Irish Dental Association Fintan Hourihan: “It is clear from today’s Budget that the Government do not understand that the delivery of dental care is fractured with public services like the DTSS scheme and the HSE public dental service for children on the verge of collapse. Patients are the ones who will suffer most in an underfunded oral health system. We are urgently calling on the Minister for Health to engage with the Irish Dental Association in an effort to develop a model of care that brings about the reform that we so desperately seek and, most critically ensures access to essential care for patients.”
In addition, the Irish Dental Association notes that a retention and recruitment crisis in the sector will only drive-up waiting lists and provisions should have been made in Budget 2023 to ensure the expansion of the Dental Schools in UCC and TCD to increase the supply of Dental Graduates.